Artificial fibre wrapped around giant reel, 1997.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Tactel (nylon) was first developed by Wallace Hume Carothers (1896-1937) in the United States during the 1930s. One of a clas of polymers known as polyamides, it has a protein-like structure, and is made by condensation between an amino group of one molecule and a carboxylic acid group of another. When nylon is heated and pushed through tiny holes in an extrusion die under presure, this forms many thin fibres which are quickly pulled away so that they cool and stretch. Made by DuPont (UK) Ltd.